With the help of a grant from Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, I am exploring new and innovative online possibilities in clown teaching, by testing online options for clown teaching at London Clown School. Somewhat fortuitously, I came into our current situation having had some experience in the design and delivery of online teaching materials for clowning with the first Clown Studies Course (History, Theory and Analysis) in January of this year.
My main focus has begun with adapting the syllabus from the former weekly ‘Devising for Clown Performance’ classes, which I have offered in London for a number of years. Through experimental sessions with interested performers, teachers, and students I began by testing some possibilities and limitations of online study in the area of creating clown performance. This area of clown training, with a large component of creation which occurs previous to the live performance, seems like it might lend itself more easily to online education. As a result, I am now at the stage of running a number of six-week series of classes.
The next phase will be to test the teaching of those aspects of live clown performance which normally assume or demand the physical presence of performers and spectators in the same space, which presents greater obstacles in translating to online media.
This process, at the moment, looks to respond to urgent current circumstances, but then will come questions in addressing the unknown of whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in in the near future. We don’t know how much demand for online learning will be sustained. Perhaps it will maintain itself at the current level, perhaps it will increase, or perhaps it will drop off if circumstances change. Current responses to my own initial plans from both professionals and students suggest that especially those with difficult access to performer and arts training will continue to engage online after lockdown.
I hope that these innovations may have some useful impact on teachers and students in my field and play some role in the development of clown teaching and performance globally, which has always been of prime importance to me.
So, instead of asking, ‘when will we return to like it was before with live audiences and workshops?’ we can ask ‘how do we do this now?’ (whether we return or not). Our unique new historical circumstances may lay the foundation for an exciting new way of understanding our artform. My hope is to be able to develop, innovate, and support the world network of clowns and clowning for the future.